Why Gmail’s contact manager is so bad

I have long had the opinion that Google is like Microsoft when it comes to user interface. Steve Jobs famously said, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste.” I’d say it’s really a question of priorities. To Jobs and to Apple, taste is every bit as important a part of a product’s value as function. Both equal in importance, both critical components in any successful product.

When Google was readying the release of Gmail, they had a long laundry list of features to add and, apparently, a contact manager was low on the list. Here’s a Twitter back-and-forth with Google design lead Kevin Fox:

Ryan Sarver: can someone who used to work at Gmail finally explain to me why Gmail contacts are so bad? Contacts/identity feel so important to G strategy

Kevin Fox: Blame me. While readying for launch, contacts was last on the long to-do list. Though improved, it’s been sidelined ever since.

Ryan Sarver: I have added you to my personal blacklist :) any idea why they don’t see it as key to identity and graph? Such an underutilized asset

Kevin Fox: Honestly I think it’s lost in the chasm between ‘products-not-features’ and a master social strategic plan. A real loss.

The fact that Google released the product this way is one thing. The fact that such an important corporate interface and asset has been allowed to languish is, to me, inexcusable.